Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 22, 2017

Did a Kremlin Pilgrimage cause Alternet blogger’s Damascene conversion?

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 5:51 pm

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 1.55.25 PM

A scorching take-down of Max Blumenthal and all the other sordid contributors to Alternet.

P U L S E

by Sam Charles Hamad and Oz Katerji

Last March, a live performance in support of Syrian first responders by a flashmob orchestra at New York’s Grand Central Station was physically disrupted by a group of six protesters. Within hours, the video of the disruption was uploaded to social media and promoted by an RT employee. Max Blumenthal, a blogger at Alternet, soon released documents that revealed the performance was organized by a pro-Syrian campaign group. In characteristic inversion of reality, RT billed the disruption as a triumph for “anti-war” direct action.

Three participants in the protest have so far been identified: all have links to RT, the Russian state-funded propaganda network now under investigation by the U.S. government for its alleged interference in the last presidential election. Alexander Rubinstein, the man who filmed the protest, is an RT employee, and Taryn Fivek and Sara Flounders, the two protesters, are RT contributors…

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Reply to a disgruntled 27-year old

Filed under: socialism,third parties — louisproyect @ 3:31 pm

Kshama Sawant: going to Washington DC to explore possibility of a new People’s Party

Customarily when I receive a private message such as the one below, I answer it publicly without identifying the sender since it might likely be a question that other readers of this blog have been wrestling with:

Hi there,

I’m a disgruntled 27 year old who’s been reading your blog recently, because I’ve become interested in left wing analysis of, well everything. I admittedly don’t consider myself a Marxist, but I also don’t consider myself an anarchist or a liberal or a centrist or anything like that, so I don’t know where I fit. Maybe anti capitalist? But I don’t have a replacement on hand so it seems kind of a useless term. Reading through your blog, I have read you have had decades of experience with activism going back to the 1960s. So what I’m asking simply is, what is my generation, this generation, supposed to do? I understand you or anyone else probably doesn’t have an answer, or not much of one, but I’m hoping you might have some insights on how this generation can deal with the massive issues now and coming. I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, and feel free to ignore it.

J.

Hi, J

To start with, there are good reasons why identifying as an anti-capitalist rather than a socialist might make sense. In 2009, the French Trotskyist group known as the Revolutionary Communist League dissolved itself into a new group called the New Anticapitalist Party because it was trying to get away from the “Russian questions” that had gotten much of the socialist left bogged down in doctrinal hairsplitting. After all, why argue over when the USSR became a “degenerated workers state” or “state capitalist” when the real problem facing Americans was how to secure health care or affordable housing.

There are other new left formations in Europe that have taken the same tack as the NPA with even greater success, such as Podemos in Spain or Syriza in Greece. While Syriza has been disavowed by most of the left for having caved into the demands of German banks and other lending institutions, there was a need for the Greek left to come together in a broad left formation that did not impose an ideological straightjacket on its members. Whatever your take on Soviet history or its various leaders, the pressing question for Greeks was how to get from under the crushing debt cycle. That Syriza failed this test is more a judgement on its Eurocommunist leadership than on its origins as a broad-based anti-capitalist party.

There is nothing quite like this in the USA today. I held out hopes ever since Ralph Nader’s 2000 campaign that the Green Party would move in this direction but am dismayed by the party’s failure to develop into a nation-wide membership party. About six months ago, I paid $25 to become a Green Party member but nothing has come out of that. I wasn’t expecting to get a phone call or anything but if there was a national office for the party, it might be consolidating members in New York so that they could come together and discuss what can be done to challenge the status quo. With a transportation crisis in New York City, a well-organized Green Party chapter consisting of hundreds of members could play an important role in mobilizing support for investment in subway infrastructure.

As you probably are aware, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have experienced explosive growth in the past year with reports that it now has a membership in excess of 25,000—many of whom are your age and probably of a similar background. I had questions on whether this was only a paper membership but their participation in the protest against the far-right “Freedom of Speech” rally in Boston suggests a departure from past norms. Currently the main problem with the DSA is its failure to break decisively with the Democratic Party. Ever since the cooptation of Tom Watson’s Populist Party, the Democrats have managed to prevent a leftist third party from emerging. In my view, the need for such a party eclipses any considerations of ideological purity. Last year I took a lot of heat from people I had been close to around Syrian solidarity issues because of my support for Jill Stein, who had ambivalent positions on Syria—and sometimes even worse. It was more important that a third party emerge rather than making international questions a litmus test. However, the main obstacle to the Green Party becoming that party is not difference over this or that question but the general inability of the top tier of leadership to understand the need to take party-building seriously. I have no idea what Jill Stein did with the millions raised to investigate voting irregularities in the presidential vote but surely some of it could have been funneled into creating a national office with a competent staff.

On the third party front, Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative has now issued a call for such a party:

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant will be in Washington, D.C., early next month to discuss the possible launch of a new party.

Its name may sound familiar to Seattle: The People’s Party.

However, while Sawant was an early supporter of the newly founded Seattle Peoples Party and its mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver, the two groups with similar names have no formal relationship with each other, though they are feeding off the same populist fervor. And just as the Seattle Peoples Party upended local political dynamics during the mayoral primary, the national party has simliar ambitions.

“I think Nikkita Oliver’s campaign is a symptom and actually an example of what’s happening politically in this country,” says Dr. Bill Kildall, Washington State coordinator. “The two party system no longer represents our working people and [her] campaign obviously was directed at gaining support from working people.”

A town hall will be hosted in Washington D.C. on Sept. 9 to discuss the formation of the new People’s Party. It will be livestreamed across the country to similar gatherings. The event in D.C. will be headlined by Sawant, Dr. Cornel West, and Nick Brana, founder of Draft Bernie for a People’s Party (that organization was what gave rise to the national party’s name).

“What we will be doing,” Kildall says, “is establishing what I would call chapters in each place where the sister townhalls are going to be held. There will be follow up meetings where we will actually form these chapters of the People’s Party and elect officers and make by-laws.”

I am not sure that Socialist Alternative has the clout to pull this off but on paper it sounds great. Perhaps if the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the DSA put their shoulders to the wheel, it might work. Icitizen, admittedly not a neutral body, took a poll in June that had some eye-popping results. In their online survey of 1,176 adults, nearly sixty percent are likely to consider voting for a third-party candidate for president in 2020 and over half believe that if a third party gained Congressional seats, legislation would improve.

As Leon Trotsky might have put it, conditions are rotten-ripe for a new left party.

This brings us to the question of what is to be done by your generation. When I was your age, the largest groups on the left were either Trotskyist like the one I belonged to or Maoist. Both types of party were sectarian mistakes. I have written dozens of articles since 1992 or so explaining why Trotskyism had a self-imposed glass ceiling by demanding that members be committed to a program much more narrow than any mass party would consider. The same thing was true of the Maoists as Max Elbaum pointed out in his “Revolution in the Air”. That epoch has come to an end. The only people starting new “Leninist” parties today are young and inexperienced and their efforts are mostly Internet-based. After all, to start a new “Revolutionary Communist Party-Marxist Leninist” in the USA, a WordPress account suffices.

I have no problem recommending membership in the ISO or Socialist Alternative even though they claim to be “Leninist”. They are so far from the rigid and cultish norms of the Trotskyist and Maoist groups of the 1960s and 70s that you certainly won’t come out of as damaged goods like me when I left the SWP in 1978. As long as you are not afraid to speak your mind, these groups could provide a useful education and the avenues to productive work in the mass movement.

If it weren’t for its temporizing with the Democratic Party, the DSA would be hands down winners. I have a feeling that their potential for growth is practically unlimited since it allows total political and intellectual freedom for its membership, which as it happens was the same kind of freedom that existed in Rosa Luxemburg’s party in Germany or Lenin’s in Russia.

If you are reluctant to join any party at this point, I’d recommend looking into a Jacobin reading group. Many of the people who get together to discuss radical literature have the same kind of background as you and can be a useful resource in hooking you up with activism in the city where you live.

Finally, I’d stay away from the two big temptations today, Democratic Party politics and black bloc/antifa adventurism. In a PJ Wodehouse short story, the manservant Jeeves told his master Bertie Wooster: “You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound.” I feel the same way about the Democrats and ultraleftism.

August 21, 2017

When Clowns Cry

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 7:45 pm

Source: When Clowns Cry

Mama Africa

Filed under: Africa,Film,music — louisproyect @ 5:36 pm

If “Mama Africa”, the fine new documentary about Mariam Makeba, was nothing more than a compilation of her performances going back to the songs she sang in Lionel Rogosin’s groundbreaking anti-apartheid film “Come Back, Africa” in 1959, it would be well worth seeing. But it is more than that. It is a portrait of a leading Pan-African activist who deserves to be ranked alongside Paul Robeson as a tireless fighter for human rights for all people.

In a way, Rogosin’s film launched her career as a freedom fighter since everybody involved with it understood the risks they were taking. She only appeared briefly on stage, and sang two songs lasting four minutes but made such an impression on those who saw “Come Back, Africa” that she was invited to perform in London and New York, where she met and impressed Harry Belafonte who had by now established himself as an outspoken opponent of Jim Crow. He helped her get her first recordings made, “The Click Song” that was based on the highly percussive Xhosa language and “Pata Pata”, a dance tune she considered superficial.

One of the things that struck me about early her professional history is how much it overlapped with the folk music revival that to a large extent relied on great musicians like Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte who had been part of the Communist Party’s cultural milieu. Songs like “Wimowe” (The Lion Sleeps at Night) were often performed side-by-side with “This Land is Your Land” and “We Shall Overcome”. By 1959, the battle against Jim Crow in the South and apartheid in South Africa were closely linked in the minds of young people like Joan Baez or Peter, Paul and Mary.

Mariam Makeba was not in South Africa when the Sharpesville Massacre occurred a year later. She was anxious to attend the funerals of two family members were victims of the racist cops but discovered that her passport had been revoked. Like Paul Robeson, she had become an unperson. Because of the massacre and the violation of her right to travel freely, Makeba became even more outspoken and dedicated to eliminating apartheid.

Indeed, the film is social history as well as a personal history of Marian Makeba. As the Civil Rights movement gave way to the Black Power Movement, Makeba’s path crossed that of Stokely Carmichael, the leader of SNCC who had coined the term Black Power and become a leading Black nationalist and afterwards a Pan-Africanist who adopted the name Kwame Ture. After Carmichael and Makeba married in 1968, her songs took on a sharper political edge and were performed at rallies in the USA and Africa.

The film benefits from interviews with some of the key people who knew her as fellow musicians or activists. We hear from her bass player and drummer from the early 60s who offer thoughtful assessments of her as a person and a musician. She was beloved by everybody, especially for her readiness to prepare an elaborate meal on a moment’s notice. We also hear from her grandson Nelson Lumuba Lee who fleshes her out as a personality. He states that the accidental death of another grandson at a young age from accidentally swallowing some pills left her disconsolate and probably made performing and activism more difficult, especially as she grew older.

Makeba was able to return to a free South Africa in 1990 and became an enormous influence on younger female vocalists who pay tribute to her in the film. Indeed, it is hard to exaggerate the impact she had on African music and politics. It must be said, however, that Hugh Masekela, her most famous collaborator has a dim view of South Africa today, describing it as a neo-colonial state dominated from the West and the East.

“Mama Africa” was directed by Mika Kaurismäki, the older brother of Aki Kaurismäki—my favorite director. Mika directed a wonderful film titled “The Girl King” that I also recommend highly. It is the story of the lesbian Queen of Sweden who was tutored by Descartes—no that is not fiction! It can be seen for a mere $1.99 on Youtube.

Unfortunately, a disabled Macbook prevented me from posting this review until today but I urge my readers to try to attend a screening as indicated below:

Parkway Theater, Baltimore – 8/18 to 8/24

Austin Film Society – 9/23 & 9/30

Virginia Film Festival – 11/10 & 11/12

IFC, New York City –1/19/18 to 1/25/18

Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, Toronto – 2/27/18

I would also advise checking the distributor’s website to check about other screenings.

August 20, 2017

Boston and Vancouver, models for the anti-fascist struggle

Filed under: anarchism,Fascism,ultraleftism — louisproyect @ 8:03 pm

One of the difficulties I faced in writing about antifa adventurism was the lack of a positive example. Someone derided me for referring to the struggle with the KKK that I and other socialists were involved with in Houston in the early 70s. What a moldy fig I was. Didn’t I know that punching Richard Spencer in the face was the way to stop fascism?

Fortunately for me and fortunately for the need of the movement, two demonstrations epitomize exactly the approach I have been advocating. I consider them enormous successes and hope that a national movement can emerge that adopts their strategy and tactics.

Yesterday 40,000 protestors converged on Boston Commons to show their opposition to a “Free Speech” rally at the same location. As you probably know, people like Milo Yiannopoulos and his ultraright supporters have cynically been trying to get sympathy because of the bans on his appearances or attempts by small groups of antifa activists to shut them down. His freedoms are being denied, you see. Poor thing gets his chance to make his case before millions on the Bill Maher show after the antifa idiots throw a tantrum at Berkeley.

I don’t have much use for the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League but they have a useful report about the people who organized the event that they characterize as “alt-lite”, meaning people who do not use white supremacy language but vilify feminists, immigrants and Muslims.

They like to straddle the fence. For example, there’s an outfit called The Proud Boys that is led by Gavin McInnes, which calls for “Reinstating a Spirit of Western chauvinism” but dubbed the Charlottesville event as “racist”, plus the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler is a member.

Last Monday, McInnes announced that he was dropping out of the event, as would Cassandra Fairbanks, a former reporter for Sputnik. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, some of these types were getting cold feet. Angelus Invictus, a member of the military wing of the Proud Boys, announced that he was no longer going to speak.

Another featured speaker was Based Stickman, who was charged with a felony at a protest in California carrying his eponymous weapon of choice at a fascist protest. He was to be followed by Shiva Ayyadurai, an Indian-born American scientist who claims that he invented e-mail. Just by coincidence I heard him being interviewed this morning on the radio. Mostly he was defending himself from critics who consider him a fraud rather than expressing any political views. Ayyadural is running as a Republican to unseat Elizabeth Warren, making nativism a key plank. Naturally, he has been a guest on Infowars.

Apparently, the Free Speech rally fell apart a short time after it began. Scheduled from noon to 2pm, it was all over by 12:50. Probably a combination of the toxic fumes left over from Charlottesville plus the immense build-up to the counter-protest a few days before Saturday aborted the event.

Even if there wasn’t much to protest, the appearance of 40,000 disciplined and serious protestors was a major shot in the arm to a burgeoning movement. For background on the organizers on this event, who shared a socialist rather than an anarchist background, I recommend an article on The Uptake (http://theuptake.org/2017/08/19/how-boston-counter-protesters-organized-against-free-speech-rally/). It was a coalition of ANSWER Coalition and the DSA, plus a group called The Coalition To Organize And Mobilize Boston Against Trump (COMBAT) that I know nothing about. I have no way of proving this but I suspect that the DSA’s high profile helped to turn out the numbers. Good for them.

Apparently some antifa idiots tried to stage a melee as the event was winding down but they were largely ignored, thank goodness.

The same thing happened in Vancouver. An anti-Muslim rally called at City Hall drew a couple of dozen people while 4,000 counter-protestors ringed the building. As was the case in Boston, ultraleftists were marginalized.

For a full report on the action, see http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/anti-immigration-rally-at-vancouver-city-hall. As was the case in Boston as well, the fascist rally was stillborn:

At the peak of the counter-protest at around 2 p.m., when organizers from the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam Canada and the Cultural Action Party of Canada had been expected to speak out against federal immigration policy, about 4,000 people surrounded city hall, according to a police estimate.

The anti-Islam rally organizers were nowhere to be found.

This week Noam Chomsky denounced antifa activists in an interview with the rightwing Washington Examiner, a sign once again of declining judgment. If you wanted to criticize ultraleftism, it would have been much better to do it on ZNet or any of the other publications that worship at his feet. Chomsky told them, “”As for Antifa, it’s a minuscule fringe of the Left, just as its predecessors were. It’s a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant.”

Stung by Chomsky’s criticism, there was the customary anonymous answer to him on Libcom, an anarchist website that along with the It’s Going Down website constitute the “punch a Nazi in the face” faction of the left.

Titled “6 reasons why Chomsky is wrong about antifa” (http://libcom.org/blog/6-reasons-why-chomsky-wrong-about-antifa-18082017), the first reason struck my eye since it referred to antifa’s predecessors being more significant that Chomsky believed and as well a party I once belonged to, I wondered how in the world they could equate their adventurism with how Trotskyists dealt with the Silver Shirt fascist movement in Minneapolis. Libcom wrote:

In Europe, they are the Red Warriors of Paris or the Revolutionary Front in Sweden. And in North America they were the Teamsters who formed a defense guard against the Silver Shirts in the 1930s, or Anti-Racist Action who took on Klansmen and the National Socialist Movement from the 1980s until very recently.

They link to an excerpt from Farrell Dobbs’s book “Teamster Politics” that is very useful in understanding how fascism was resisted in the 1930s. As even the anarchists are forced to admit, Dobbs took Leon Trotsky’s advice and formed a defense guard. As the name implied, this was an armed detachment made up of working class veterans of WWI who were charged with defending union headquarters from attack. Dobbs is quoted:

It became known immediately that Zachary’s main theme had been to call for a vigilante attack on the headquarters of Local 544….This situation called for prompt countermeasures. So Local 544, acting with its customary decisiveness, answered the threat by organizing a union defense guard during August 1938….

In the 1930s, the CIO organized defense guards during strikes all across the USA. Mostly, they used clubs or tire irons but were not above using guns if the occasion called for it. This is a far cry from today when groups like Redneck Revolt fetishize weapons as if groups led by Richard Spencer or his co-thinkers were being backed by the big bourgeoisie as was the case in the Little Steel strike when the CEO of Bethlehem Steel et al hired and armed thugs with machine guns and hand grenades.

When the leader of the Silver Shirts was scheduled to speak in St. Paul, the Teamsters sent 300 members of the defense guard to confront him. The sight of this contingent was enough to call off the meeting. Would the Teamsters have used their weapons on the people at the meeting? Of course not. That would have allowed the cops to arrest them all and break the union.

It is important to understand the context for all this. Four years before the confrontation, there was a general strike in the Twin Cities. In an article for Jacobin, Canadian historian Bryan Palmer described the assault on working people there:

The mayor backed a vindictive police force led by a chief determined to crush the workers and willing to execute strikers and strike supporters in the street if necessary. “You have shotguns, and you know how to use them,” Police Chief Johannes instructed his officers in July 1934.

A picket captain described the police carnage in one infamous battle, memorialized as “Bloody Friday”: “They just went wild. Actually they shot at anybody that moved. … they kept on shooting until all the pickets had either hid or got shelter somewhere. Oh, they meant business.” Novelist Meredel Le Sueur’s account was more gruesomely lyrical: “[T]he cops opened fire.. . . men were lying crying in the street with blood spurting from the myriad wounds buckshots make. Turning instinctively for cover they were shot in the back.. . . Not a picket was armed with so much as a toothpick.”

Two workers died on “Bloody Friday”: Henry Ness, a striker, riddled with buckshot, succumbed to his wounds almost immediately. John Bellor, an unemployed strike supporter also critically injured in the battle died, days later. Forty thousand lined the streets and marched in Ness’s funeral procession.

Many years ago when I was in the SWP, comrades used to speak about the ultraleftists of those days. They said that if you mistake the first month of a pregnancy with the ninth, you are likely to end up with a abortion. With the raw youth of the antifa movement making the same kinds of mistakes as the Weathermen in 1971, you might even say that they are mistaking the first week of the pregnancy with the last.

There are no class battles taking place today that have the slightest resemblance to those of the 1930s. Back then, combat between the workers and the class enemy was a deadly serious business. And also back then, men assigned to work in defense guards or flying battalions in militant strikes were democratically elected by trade unions and were usually members of the Communist Party or other radical groups well known to those whose class interests they were defending.

Today, we have antifa people who are only known to each other. Nobody votes to have them turn a peaceful march into a battleground. Libcom and It’s Going Down feature articles written by people cloaked in anonymity. Many of their members show up at protests with their faces covered. This is not the kind of movement we need. I hope that some of them will learn from the success of the Boston and Vancouver protests since they foreshadow the kind of movement that we need. It is hard for people to reverse themselves politically but when you are as young as them, there is hope.

August 18, 2017

The ex-member of LaRouche’s fascist cult who writes for Robert Parry’s Consortium News

Filed under: Fascism,Kevin Coogan,LaRouche — louisproyect @ 6:29 pm

Andrew Spannaus

If there is anything that gets my dander up, it is being threatened with legal action. The last time I ran into such threats is when Joyce Brabner said she would sue me if I began serializing the memoir I did with her late husband Harvey Pekar. Since she lacks the money to hire a lawyer on contingency, I probably would have had no problems but I generally shy away from unstable and unpredictable people.

Today I was warned by Andrew Spannaus that unless I removed a post about his article on Consortium News titled “The Agony of ‘Regime Change’ Refugees”, he would have his lawyer look into suing me for libel. Since Spannaus is a former member of the LaRouche fascist cult, I decided not to look for trouble. If you’ve followed LaRouche over the years, you’ll know that he launched nuisance suits at his perceived enemies all the time, including a $60 million libel suit against NBC in 1984.

In this article I will be choosing my words very carefully. It will be based on the facts acknowledged by Spannaus himself, namely that he is a former member. I have been writing for years about what a toxic dump Consortium News is and feel an obligation to point out that Spannaus is a regular contributor to Robert Parry’s website with 13 articles to his credit.

In the remainder of this article, I will be referring to some of Spannaus’s articles on Executive Intelligence Review, the flagship journal of LaRouche’s cult, between 2000 and 2015 since they reflect an evolution that I think my readers should be aware of, namely the bid by these fascists to adopt a less insane identity. In the 1980s, they would publish stark raving mad articles about Queen Elizabeth being the head of an international drug cartel but over the past 15 years at least, they have worked hard to appear about the same as Consortium News, 21st Century Wire, Information Clearing House, DissidentVoice and other websites in the Putin/Assad/Islamic Republic orbit. I will conclude with a brief look at Spannaus and his former comrade Paul Goldstein’s professional consultancies today that are obvious bids to supply the kind of high-level advice to the bourgeoisie that LaRouche hoped to serve in EIR.

1) The earliest Spannaus article is dated June 30, 1995 and is titled “Italian party debates LaRouchean economics”. In it, Spannaus brags about how members of the Popular Party are openly supporting LaRouche’s economic policies. He advocated that Italy transform the bank of Italy into a national bank, adding that “The national bank concept, going back to the first U. S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, is a key aspect of LaRouche’s policy for economic recovery.”

As I mentioned in my first post on LaRouche, his cult has such a thing about Alexander Hamilton that they are now passing out broadsheets in NYC called the Hamiltonian. It even makes you wonder if they financed the execrable Broadway musical. Is it just a coincidence that 22 years after writing this article, Spannaus was still tooting Hamilton’s horn in Consortium News?

Trump then went on to use the term “American System”, associated with the current of economic nationalism promoted by figures such as Alexander Hamilton, Clay and Henry Carey, champions of investment in industry and infrastructure, and protection against the free market claims of European empires, which sought to undermine American economic independence in order to defend their own pre-eminence.

Inquiring minds want to know.

2) Two years later Spannaus wrote a diatribe against Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni as a genocidal dictator “used by the British Privy Council in its raw materials grab in Central Africa.” Most of the article stayed within the boundaries of normal reporting but I was struck by how Spannaus described Frantz Fanon:

The second ideological string is the existential philosophy of Frantz Fanon, who advocated “revolutionary violence” for economic development for Africans, and claimed that such violence even has purifying power. All of the “new leaders” in Central Africa studied this murderous ideology at Dar Es Salaam University in the 1960s.

Supposedly the British exploited Fanon’s ideas in order to commit genocide on a scale not seen since the Nazis. Oh, well. I had a different take on “The Wretched of the Earth” but that’s what happens when you were educated in a Marxist cult rather than one run by a would be Hitler.

3) Fast-forwarding to 2007, Spannaus wrote about LaRouche’s speech to the Italian Senate Labor and Social Security Commission. The fascist nut was now 84 and just as capable of predicting a cataclysmic end of the world as ever. He was invited to speak about his legislative proposals that could save Italy from imminent doom. Apparently, the politicians were a bit skeptical as Spannaus reported:

As often happens in official circles, some of the politicians involved in the discussions expressed surprise at LaRouche’s forecast of the short-term death of the current system. Despite agreeing with his overall approach on rebuilding the productive economy, they claimed that his warning of a systemic crash is a “catastrophic” view that can only be seen as “pessimistic.” In response to the nervous protests of one Senator, LaRouche repeated that it would be absolutely foolish to assume that the present system will last beyond Christmas of this year, and at the same time, he explained why it is essential that such a premise be established at this time.

Did the fact that the world continued after Christmas Day, 2007 help to undermine Spannaus’s belief in the cult leader? Well, he was writing for EIR for another 8 years so I guess he was in no rush to break his ties.

4) One of the most interesting things to me is how in the past 20 years the group has sought respectability. You can search in vain for anything in EIR that will make your hair stand on end unless you are one of those people who views Vladimir Putin as an unmitigated pig.

By 2011, one of Spannaus’s articles could have easily been published in Salon or Alternet. Titled “In Italy, Reich Calls For Glass-Steagall”, it is plain vanilla Democratic Party propaganda.

The response from the audience was enthusiastic, with numerous local entrepreneurs and opinion leaders posing questions to Reich on the prospects for future industrial growth and the reform of the international financial system. On this point, this author, who moderated the event, mentioned the bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (DOhio) to restore Glass-Steagall, and also the fact that motions calling for a Glass-Steagall system in Italy and Europe have been presented in the Italian Chamber of Deputies and Senate.

So funny. In 2007, Spannaus was stenographer to the lunatic LaRouche who insisted the world would collapse by Christmas day and only four years later, we have pap that might have been written by an Alternet stringer. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, this is the way the cult ends—not with a bang but a whimper.

With the skills Spannaus learned writing for EIR, he leveraged that into a consultancy/newsletter service called Transatlantico. I honestly can’t understand how he makes any money as a consultant since there is nothing there that appears to be a bid for business, such as a list of his past clients. You can buy a subscription to his newsletter for 250 Euros per year. What some CEO expects to get out of it is anybody’s guess.

In addition to his own business, Spannaus works for Pacific Tech Bridge, which was founded and still led by Paul Goldstein, LaRouche’s former chief security aide. Has he dropped out of the fascist cult? The last article by Goldstein to appear in EIR was dated 25 years ago so that seems plausible.

Pacific Tech Bridge reads a lot like those consulting companies that offer high-level strategies to corporations, especially about risk management. Spannaus is on the advisory board along with people like Joshua Mitchell, a Georgetown University professor, and Phil Midland, the co-founder of IHS International, another strategic management type consultancy.

Looking at Goldstein’s CV on the “leadership” page, I got a chuckle out of one of his past enterprises:

Strategic Renaissance 21

Co-founder & Executive Vice President established in 2011. Chairman of SR 21 is Admiral (retired) Bob Inman, former head of the National Security Agency and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Mr. James Hackett, former Chief Executive Officer of Anadarko Oil Company is Vice Chairman. Phil Midland, former naval intelligence officer is President.

SR 21 is presently engaged in building a special relationship with the Communist Party of China’s elite cadre school called the Central Committee of the CPC Central Party School (CCPS). SR 21 and CCPS have had a three year memorandum of understanding (MOU) from 2012-2015 that is being renewed in July 2016.

Wow! Bobby Inman, the former head of the NSA and Deputy Director of the CIA. Hot shit! And building a special relationship with the CP’s elite cadre school in China. Hoo-boy, who wouldn’t want to hire these movers and shakers?

The contacts that Goldstein, LaRouche’s chief security aide, likely made with Inman in the early 80s must have paid off. Let’s turn to Dennis King’s “Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism” for the goods:

Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, former chief of the code-breaking National Security Agency and a consummate intelligence professional, received a steady flow of reports from the LaRouche organization while serving as CIA deputy director in 1981-83, He met personally with Lyn and Helga LaRouche in a little house on F Street in Washington to discuss West Germany’s peace movement. After leaving the CIA to head an electronics firm, he talked frequently on the phone with LaRouche security staffers, who regarded him as their “rabbi” and hoped that someday he would become CIA director. Former LaRouche security aide Charles Tate, in his testimony as a prosecution witness in Boston, described taking the incoming calls from Inman to security chief Jeff Steinberg. Tate also claims to have chatted with Inman personally. (Inman’s version is that he was merely the victim of a constant bombardment of phone calls from Steinberg, whom he did his best to evade. He believes the LaRouchians were attempting to use him to “establish their importance.”)

The big joke is that Consortium News is a platform for Ray McGovern, the Assadist ex-CIA agent. You have to wonder what he would make of his fellow contributor to Parry’s sinkhole being on the advisory board of a consultancy whose CEO crows about co-founding a company with Bobby Inman. Actually, it probably wouldn’t matter at all to Parry, McGovern or Spannaus from what I’ve seen of them.

Me, personally, I wouldn’t go near a dirt-bag like LaRouche with a ten foot pole but I have no doubt that he and Inman had a mutually beneficial relationship. As I will point out in a subsequent post, the ties between this fascist cult leader, his henchmen like Paul Goldstein, and the most powerful spook in the USA is something that is simply beyond the capability of a Richard Spencer to pull off. That is why it is important to review the evolution of LaRouchism even if by some accounts it is on its deathbed.

 

The Fetishization of Violence: Reflections on Charlottesville, WWII and Activism

Filed under: anarchism,Counterpunch — louisproyect @ 12:44 pm

The Fetishization of Violence: Reflections on Charlottesville, WWII and Activism

“The experience that we have of our lives from within, the story we tell ourselves about ourselves in order to account for what we are doing, is fundamentally a lie – the truth lies outside, in what we do.”

― Slavoj Žižek

A Most Violent Nation

In the United States of America, violence remains one of our greatest pastimes. From slaughtering Native Americans and enslaving, torturing and killing African Americans, to conquering Filipinos and incinerating the Vietnamese, the history of the U.S. reads like a horror story. Without question, this is a nation built and maintained by violence.

Today, Americans shoot and kill each other and themselves at unprecedented levels, and disproportionately when compared to our industrialized counterparts. Uncle Sam, as Chris Hedges routinely mentions, speaks in the “language of violence.” When children grow up watching their presidents and civic leaders threaten to use violence, it should come as no surprise when those same children resort to violence to solve their problems.

Growing up, I was immersed in violence, both personally and socially. My father’s friends spent their time on the streets. They understood how violence works in the real world. They also understood the utility of violence. But they paid the price for their devotion to violence. Many of them turned into alcoholics. Some died from drugs. Others are in jail. Their families and victims pay the ultimate price.

I was born in 1984. I grew up on COPS, Rambo and Navy Seals. I played with toy guns, and eventually, real ones. I grew up shooting. I grew up with cops and military veterans visiting our childhood homes. They spoke in the language of violence. They drank, and smoked, and cursed. They were angry. They remain angry.

Violence, when employed correctly, is extremely effective. That’s why it’s so tempting to use violence as a means to an end. People who argue that violence solves nothing have never encountered much violence. Unfortunately, violence is horrifically powerful and quite useful in many contexts. That said, the long-term social, ecological and cultural consequences of violent behavior are equally destructive.

From the perspective of a nation-state, violence can solve short-term issues, but it cannot solve complex long-term challenges such as climate change, institutional racism, militarism, etc. Right now, U.S. Empire is quickly learning the limitations of protracted violence. The U.S. Empire is collapsing under its own weight, as the historian Alfred McCoy routinely notes.

Any empire, republic, political movement or individual who bases their movement on violence will ultimately succumb to extreme violence. The more the state apparatus lashes out in violent ways, and the more rightwing extremists engage in terrorism, the more likely the Left will respond with violence (a point we’ll return to later in the essay). The cycle of violence must end, and soon.

Breaking from 400 years of colonial history and violence will not be easy, but it can be done. There is no law or rule that says we must continue down this violent and destructive path. However, much like a life-long alcoholic, it will take great efforts to change the mindset and culture that encourages people to think and behave violently. More importantly, we must dismantle the economic, cultural, social and psychological institutions and mechanisms that create the conditions for violence.

The Charlottesville—Military Connection

James Alex Fields Jr., the rightwing terrorist who drove his car into a crowd of protesters, killing Heather D. Heyer and injuring another 20 people, is an Army veteran. According to media reports, Fields was a loner and a confused teenager who became interested in WWII and Nazis during his high school years. Since the attack, pictures have surfaced showing Fields participating in Vanguard America rallies.

While Fields represents the sort of misguided and irrational terrorists he likely despises, the more interesting character in this tragedy is Dylan Ulysses Hopper, the CEO of Vanguard America, and one of the primary organizers for rightwing groups who descended on Charlottesville.

Hopper, a former Marine Corps sergeant, officially became a white supremacist in 2012, around the same time he became a Marine Corps recruiter in Ohio. Quickly, Hopper ascended the ranks of Vanguard America, using his recruitment skills and military training to boost the ranks of the white supremacist organization. Hopper, a veteran of both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, represents a growing trend in the U.S. military. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, citing an FBI study:

White supremacist leaders are making a concerted effort to recruit active-duty soldiers and recent combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new FBI report. The unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment, titled ‘White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11,’ bolsters the findings of a 2006 Intelligence Report exposé that revealed that alarming numbers of racist extremists were taking advantage of lowered wartime recruiting standards to enlist in the armed services.

‘Military experience is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement as a result of recruitment campaigns by extremist groups and self-recruitment by veterans sympathetic to white supremacist causes,’ the FBI report states. ‘Extremist leaders seek to recruit members with military experience in order to exploit their discipline, knowledge of firearms, explosives and tactical skills as well as [in the case of active duty soldiers] their access to weapons and intelligence.’

Of course, none of this should come as a great surprise. An institution that’s built on racism, genocide, xenophobia, dehumanization, extreme violence and toxic masculinity should be expected to create such monsters. From the Hells Angels to the Oklahoma City bombing, white supremacists have always found comfort within the ranks of the U.S. military.

During my time in the Marine Corps, it was routine to hear my fellow jarheads refer to black marines as ‘dark green,’ or worse, ‘niggers.’ Iraqis and Afghans were referred to as ‘Hajis,’ ‘towel heads’ or ‘sand-niggers.’ Female marines were called ‘WM’s,’ which stands for ‘Walking Mattresses.’ Hispanic marines were labeled ‘wetbacks’ or ‘spics.’ And Asian marines were routinely called ‘gooks’ or ‘rice patties.’

This sort of behavior and regressive ideology is prevalent in many institutions that are dominated by white men, including sports teams, fire departments and police departments. Remember Officer Jason Lai of the San Francisco Police Department? He was the cop who got busted sending texts to fellow officers that read, “I hate that beaner but the Nig is worse!” “Indian ppl are disgusting!” And, “Burn down Walgreens and kill the bums!”

Officer Lai, of Asian American descent, fully identified with and espoused the sort of rightwing-reactionary views of his white supremacist colleagues in the SFPD. And to think, we’re talking about San Francisco, not Miami, Birmingham, St. Louis or Chicago. One can only assume that the majority of Lai’s fellow police officers in the SFPD hold similar views. One can only imagine what police officers in various departments across the U.S. think about people of color, the poor, Muslims or protesters.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we don’t have to guess as we have more than enough evidence to prove that these sort of racist and violent outbursts are not isolated incidents. Ongoing and past tragedies, from Charlottesville to Oklahoma City, are nauseatingly predictable. Institutions such as the military inherently feeds the white supremacy that plagues American society and culture.

The Myth of World War II & The Power of Propaganda

In light of recent events, online activists and others have taken to posting pictures of troops storming the beaches of Normandy as a way to tie current anti-Fascist struggles to the defeat of Italian Fascism and German Nazism during World War II. The problem with this sort of reactionary protest is that it feeds the ongoing myths surrounding WWII: namely, the notion that the U.S. got involved in the war to defeat Fascism and Nazism.

The U.S. Empire, like all previous empires, does not engage in wars because it’s the right or moral thing to do. The U.S. Empire has interests. And its interests are not our interests. If within the scope of U.S. imperial interests something positive takes place, such as the defeat of Nazism, it’s a mere coincidence, not a calculated objective. The primary objective of nation-states are not moral crusades (though moral crusades under the guise of enlightened Christianity were commonly used to dominate people around the globe), the primary objective of nation-states is to consolidate and wield power.

Without doubt, the momentary defeat of Nazism and Fascism should be hailed, but not in the way in which it’s currently being lauded. Remember, the Communists defeated Fascism, not the Americans. Some estimates suggest that the Soviet Union lost close to 27 million people during WWII. The Communists bore the brunt of Fascism and Nazism. Yet, Americans revel in the myth that our 500,000+ deaths were the deciding factor in the war effort. Let’s also remember the hundreds of thousands of anarchists, communists, socialists, Jews, Gypsies and others who valiantly fought against Fascism.

Today, the myths surrounding WWII continue to haunt the American psyche, crippling our ability to critically examine U.S. history, ideology and nationalism. Most Americans have concluded that our war against Japan was just, and our efforts against the Germans and Italians righteous. Yet, as the late-great historian Howard Zinn notes in his classic work, A People’s History of the United States:

When Mussolini’s Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, the U.S. declared an embargo on munitions but let American businesses send oil to Italy in huge quantities, which was essential to Italy’s carrying on the war. When a Fascist rebellion took place in Spain in 1936 against the elected socialist-liberal government, the Roosevelt administration sponsored a neutrality act that had the effect of shutting off help to the Spanish government while Hitler and Mussolini gave critical aid to Franco. Offner says:

“… the United States went beyond even the legal requirements of its neutrality legislation. Had aid been forthcoming from the United States and from England and France, considering that Hitler’s position on aid to France was not firm at least until November 1936, the Spanish Republicans could well have triumphed. Instead, Germany gained every advantage from the Spanish civil war.”

Was this simply poor judgment, an unfortunate error? Or was it the logical policy of a government whose main interest was not stopping Fascism but advancing the imperial interests of the United States? For those interests, in the thirties, an anti-Soviet policy seemed best. Later, when Japan and Germany threatened U.S. world interests, a pro-Soviet, anti-Nazi policy became preferable. Roosevelt was as much concerned to end the oppression of Jews as Lincoln was to end slavery during the Civil War; their priority in policy (whatever their personal compassion for victims of persecution) was not minority rights, but national power.

It was not Hitler’s attacks on the Jews that brought the United States into World War II, any more than the enslavement of 4 million blacks brought Civil War in 1861. Italy’s attack on Ethiopia, Hitler’s invasion of Austria, his takeover of Czechoslovakia, his attack on Poland-none of those events caused the United States to enter the war, although Roosevelt did begin to give important aid to England. What brought the United States fully into the war was the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Surely it was not the humane concern for Japan’s bombing of civilians that led to Roosevelt’s outraged call for war-Japan’s attack on China in 1937, her bombing of civilians at Nan king, had not provoked the United States to war. It was the Japanese attack on a link in the American Pacific Empire that did it.

So long as Japan remained a well-behaved member of that imperial club of Great Powers who-in keeping with the Open Door Policy- were sharing the exploitation of China, the United States did not object. It had exchanged notes with Japan in 1917 saying ‘the Government of the United States recognizes that Japan has special interests in China.’ In 1928, according to Akira Iriye (After Imperialism), American consuls in China supported the coming of Japanese troops. It was when Japan threatened potential U.S. markets by its attempted takeover of China, but especially as it moved toward the tin, rubber, and oil of Southeast Asia, that the United States became alarmed and took those measures which led to the Japanese attack: a total embargo on scrap iron, a total embargo on oil in the summer of 1941.

Leaving aside the justification for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, it’s important to remember that prior to WWII, the U.S. had an atrocious track-record of defending struggles for freedom and democracy.

Ask the Libyans (1801-1805), Haitians (1791-1804. 1888, 1891, 1914, 1915-1934), Cubans (1814-1825, 1906-1909, 1912, 1917-1922, 1933) Filipinos (1899-1913), Mexicans (1806-1810, 1842, 1846-1848, 1859, 1866, 1873-1896), Puerto Ricans (1814-1825), Chinese (1843, 1854, 1855, 1866, 1894-1895, 1899, 1900, 1911-1941), Russians (1918-1920), Nicaraguans (1853-1857, 1867, 1894-1899, 1910-1925), Panamanians (1856, 1865, 1885, 1912-1925), Algerians (1815), Hawaiians (1870, 1874, 1889-1893),  or Guatemalans (1920) — just to name a few occasions when the U.S. military was used to protect U.S. interests and repress struggles for freedom and democracy.

Instead of glorifying state-sanctioned violence, activists in the U.S. would be wise to highlight the real heroes of WWII, people such as Gunnar Eilifsen, those who participated in the Warsaw Uprising, Irena Sandler, Lepa Radic, and countless unnamed others who defending their families and communities from Nazism and Fascism. They weren’t drafted. And they weren’t backed by the most powerful military empire in the world. They were true resistance fighters, and we should remember their sacrifices.

Meanwhile, we should do our best to challenge U.S. nationalism, historical myths and the fetishization of violence, which has reared its ugly head in light of recent white supremacist attacks on leftwing protesters. In the end, WWII was the single-greatest tragedy in the history of the human species. And that’s exactly how it should be remembered.

Antifa, Redneck Revolt, Black Bloc and The Left

Recently, I posted an article written by Louis Proyect entitled, “Antifa and the Perils of Adventurism,” on social media and received some limited backlash, but also some interesting reflections. Unfortunately, it’s clear that many people in the U.S., including seasoned activists and organizers, are having a very difficult time processing recent events in a way that’s not overly emotional or irrational in nature.

One person wrote, “Bottom line: Either you’re with Antifa or you’re with the Fascists!” This lack of nuance is symbolic of a Left that doesn’t look in the mirror, a Left that refuses to ask serious questions about its movements, organizations and members, and a Left that lacks discipline, vision and strategy. Remember, vision should dictate strategy, which in turn dictates tactics. Today, many leftists in the U.S. have the equation backward: they focus on tactics first, fail to discuss strategy, and a lack a long-term vision.

Existing anti-Fascist groups such as Antifa and the more militant organization Redneck Revolt, have filled a vacuum at protests, but their tactics are sloppy and their strategy and vision is non-existent. The overwhelming majority of Antifa activists are white, male, middle-class and disconnected from the ongoing day-to-day efforts of organizers and activists. To be fair, some do all of the above, but that’s a rare breed.

Proyect’s point about ‘adventurism’ is well understood: I’ve encountered many ‘adventurists’ over the years, especially during the Occupy Wall Street protests. I also experienced similar phenomena at antiwar protests during the Bush Era. In Charlottesville, the evidence is clear that leftwing protesters weren’t prepared for the Right’s violence, nor were they prepared to provide security for their marches.

As I watched video clips of Fields’ grey Dodge Charger ramming into a crowd of protesters, killing one, I immediately thought to myself: “Why was no one watching their six?” — military terminology for, “Who’s covering the perimeter and our backs?” Undoubtedly, it’s easy to make such critiques from the sidelines, but I’ve been in similar situations, notably in Iraq.

If leftwing activists are serious about security, especially at protests, they would enlist the help of antiwar veterans who have the knowledge and skills to provide the sort of security that’s required at such events. We know how to set up perimeter security. We know how to conduct vehicle check-points. And we know how to stand post. We know how to march in unison, follow direct orders and give direct orders. We know how to patrol city streets, and we know how to operate in teams of 4o (platoon), 12 (squad team) and 4 (fireteam).

Each person has a specific task. Each person’s task operates in tandem with other members’ tasks and skills. Everyone is trained in these skills and tasks for months and years at a time. The training process never ends. Indeed, even in the most disciplined and strict units, grave mistakes were made. People were killed during training exercises. And plenty of folks were injured.

You see, I have no moral qualms about violence or militant resistance. In fact, in many contexts, it’s absolutely required for survival. Here, in the U.S., however, I worry that my leftwing friends are getting ahead of themselves. Should communities be able to defend themselves? Absolutely. But what does that actually look like in the real world?

I would like to break down our security dilemma into three sections:

Internal Security: Are the activists who seek to provide protection at rallies (Antifa, for instance) operating in affinity groups? If not, they should. And to be clear, there are many different forms of affinity groups. What mechanisms are they using for communication? Person-to-person is the best, but there are also supposedly secure electronic applications available. Are activists talking about their challenges and plans on social media, via email or on the web? If so, they’re breaking some of the fundamental rules of security culture. Existing leftwing organizations should be having difficult discussions about the sort of security culture they wish to see in their respective organizations. Over the past 11 years, I’ve seen very little to convince me that this sort of sophisticated organizing is taking place on a broad scale. On the other hand, leftwing activists must be careful not to over-exaggerate our security threat. I’ve seen plenty of folks fall prey to unjustified paranoia. And most of the time this happens because groups don’t have a proper security culture in place. If they did, it would be much easier to operate in a rational manner, and to easily determine who/what is a threat, and who/what is not.

Security for Events: Here, I would highly suggest that leftwing activists seek out military veterans who’ve been active in the peace and justice movement. Make sure they’re vetted. Talk to their friends. Talk to people they’ve worked with. Are they accountable to a community or organization? If not, don’t work with them. It’s that simple. Only the most seasoned activists should be allowed to work in a security capacity at events where Fascists and white supremacists are expected to show up, or in a counterdemonstration against such groups. Newer activists can be trained in the proper methods of security at smaller-scale events: local protests, speaking engagements, workshops, fundraisers, etc. Operating as a team requires strict discipline and adherence to a set of values and rules. Without strict rules, people cannot survive in a combat zone. The same is true for rallies that descend into chaos. All of this is contrary to the typical anarchist-leftwing view that any form of authority is bad and must be rejected. In certain circumstances, extreme authoritarianism is required. Combat zones and riots are two examples.

External/Ongoing Security: Here, I’m thinking of the police and various other governmental entities that wield great power and violence. Going head-to-head with the police is usually a losing strategy. Leftwing activists don’t have the numbers or collective coherence required to overwhelm them, and we don’t have the weapons to stop them. This is true both at single events, and on a day-to-day basis in our local and regional communities. Dismantling the structures that produce violence and fear should always be our primary goal. In the meantime, however, people still require security. Poor communities are scared of both the cops and street gangs. Women are scared of their male partners. Domestic violence is a huge issue. Are leftwing groups prepared to respond to incidents of domestic violence? How can we expect people, particularly those who are vulnerable, to not call the police under those circumstances? Are neighborhoods and communities organized enough to do regular patrols, not so much to keep an eye on their neighbors, but to thwart the influence and power of street gangs and the police? Defending ourselves against rightwing militias or political organizations requires the same level of discipline and organization. Right now, there is no evidence that leftwing groups are prepared to engage in this level of security. That must change if we’re serious about providing alternatives to the state.

On a side note, I should mention a few things about weapons. First, I don’t trust anyone with a gun. I grew up with guns. I own guns. And unlike 99.99% of the leftwing activists, I’ve used guns to kill people. As a child, we spent hours upon hours learning how to clean, safely handle, and shoot our weapons. In the Marine Corps, that training was taken to its most extreme. In short, your individual liberties and rights go out the window once you start carrying a weapon.

One of the reasons the military is such a hyper-disciplined and authoritarian entity is because that’s the only way to survive when operating in groups of hundreds and thousands, with everyone carrying their own weapon. There must be a chain of command. Orders must be followed. If not, expect negligent discharges and unwanted deaths. In case you’re wondering, weapons are no joke.

The fetishization of guns isn’t new. The U.S. was built on the fetishization of guns and violence. Hence, it comes as no surprise that a bunch of folks who can’t even hold regular meetings or conduct effective campaigns are all of the sudden interested in picking up weapons and pretending to be revolutionaries.

From my perspective, maybe less than 1% of the activists and organizers I’ve encountered over the years are prepared for ‘militant resistance.’ They’re prepared to punch Nazis in the face, which is fine, but they’re not prepared to actually do battle with those same Nazis. In Charlottesville, leftwing activists would’ve been killed without the protection of the state. The same was true two years ago when I found myself attending an anti-Fascist rally in Coburg, a small suburb outside the city of Melbourne.

Currently, we can’t ‘outfight’ the Fascists, but we can out-organize them. Going toe-to-toe with people who are more than happy to employ violence is a losing strategy for the American Left. We lack the numbers, training, discipline, vision, coherence and seriousness to properly wage militant battles.

If you want to know what a revolutionary struggle looks like in the real world, talk to a Zapatista. Learn about their day-to-day struggles. Then, and only then, tell me that they’re ready to wage a revolutionary struggle. As my friend Sean says, and he’s right, “If you’re not ready to rats, sleep on the ground, kill people and pick up your dead friends, don’t talk to me about revolution or militant struggle.” I agree.

Dismantling White Supremacy

White Supremacy isn’t a series of attitudes or opinions, it’s a structural-systemic-institutional problem. Indeed, most of the activists and writers on the Left treat racism as if it’s a personal fault. It’s not. It’s a structural issue. The difference between individual racism and structural racism is important.

Since the Civil Rights Movement, one could argue that individual racism is much lower. Yes, there are White Supremacists who feel comfortable espousing their reactionary views online, but nowhere near the number of whites who felt comfortable doing so several decades ago. Yet, structurally, with regard to the prison industrial complex, housing, wealth and education, we’ve made little gains, and in many cases, have taken several steps back.

As a result, leftwing activists are confused. They lash out at racists on an individual level, but have no serious plans to deal with racism on a structural level. Dismantling White Supremacy requires dismantling or significantly altering existing institutions, including the corporate media (TV, Radio, Internet, Hollywood), the prison-industrial-complex and criminal justice system (Courts, Jails, Private Prisons, Police), the U.S. Empire (Bases, Weapons Contractors, Private Security Firms), global capitalism (Private Banks, Property Rights, Corporations, Trade Agreements) and a series of relationships, mechanisms, and institutions that uphold White Supremacy.

The difference between calling out and/or confronting individual racists and addressing structural racism is the difference between Neoliberal Activism (hyper-individualism) and Leftwing Activism (hyper-collectivity). Neoliberal activists have no ties to a collective body of people. They only address racism on an individual/subjective level, and fail to engage in the sort of collective work that it takes to actually dismantle the systems that produce the sort of racism they find so abhorrent.

In the end, the only response to large-scale collective challenges are large-scale collective political projects. In our context, that means creating new economic, political and cultural institutions aimed at radically changing society. And radically change society we must, at least according to the living world. Today, the concept of a new society is no longer an ideological pipe-dream, it’s a basic requirement for planetary survival.

As organizers, educators, activists and artists, it is our primary duty in the context of Neoliberalism to constantly remind people that our challenges are collective in nature. It’s also our responsibility to think critically and constantly improve upon our existing programs, campaigns, and so forth. The Right is playing to win. Are we?

Vincent Emanuele is a writer and community organizer who lives and works in Michigan City, Indiana. He is the co-founder of P.A.R.C. (Politics, Art, Roots, Culture), and a member of the National Writers Union – UAW 1981, and Veterans for Peace. He can be reached at vincent.emanuele333@gmail.com

 

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Vincent Emanuele writes for teleSUR English and lives in Michigan City, Indiana. He can be reached at vincent.emanuele333@gmail.com

California Typewriter; The Shopkeeper

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 12:22 pm

Two documentaries have come my way that raise important questions about the digital revolution as well as providing much more entertainment than Dunkirk and Detroit put together, even if this might be a case of setting the bar too low.

“California Typewriter” is a beautiful homage to the antiquated machine that people my age used long before personal computers took over while “The Shopkeeper” is a nostalgic look at the recording industry in its prime and how streaming services like Spotify and Pandora threaten to pauperize performing artists to the point of making them as antiquated as a typewriter. The shopkeeper in question is Mark Hallman, the founder of the Congress House, the longest continually operating recording studio in Austin, Texas.

However, both films hold out the possibility of keeping such “relics” alive since as Camus once said, “Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.”

Continue reading

August 15, 2017

Antifa and the perils of adventurism

Filed under: black bloc idiots,ultraleftism — louisproyect @ 5:47 pm

antifa-police-riot-thug.very_fake_news.youtube-370x242

Empty bravado

Ever since the Seattle WTO protests of 1999, I have observed a dynamic at work that can best be described as “adventurism”. It accepts that peaceful protests might be of some use but the real action involves physical confrontations with the police or ultraright that is far more dramatic and likely to make the front pages of the bourgeois media. During the Vietnam antiwar movement, it was not uncommon for TV networks to make skirmishes between ultraleftists and American-flag toting “patriots” on the perimeter of massive demonstrations the lead story on the evening news. Back then, the demonstrations were highly disciplined affairs with parade marshals from the UAW and other major trade unions keeping things moving in an orderly fashion. Ultraleftists feeling constrained by the marshals would refer to them as “peace police”.

Since 1999, “diversity of tactics” has prevailed. Nonviolent protestors can do their thing while the black bloc or antifa—the latest manifestation of adventurism—can do theirs. If tear gas and billy clubs cannot discriminate between the two groups, so what? All you need to do is retreat from the fray, suffering nothing more than irritated eyes or some bruises.

However, there are alarming signs that the stakes are becoming much higher. On May Day this year, Puerto Ricans took to the streets massively in order to show their opposition to the austerity forced upon the country that made it effectively the Greece of the Caribbean. As reported by Ed Morales in The Nation, “worker and student groups, faculty members, a feminist contingent, street artists, and an increasingly politicized middle class—coming from different points around the city converged at the Milla de Oro (Golden Mile) in the Hato Rey business district.” He described the protest as “massive and peaceful…an almost festive atmosphere”. But as the event was coming to an end, black bloc types began throwing rocks at the main headquarters of Banco Popular, the island’s largest bank, breaking windows in a time-dishonored stunt.

The police used this as an excuse to begin wading into peaceful protestors, firing tear gas and using billy clubs on the crowd. TV news that night led, of course, with footage of the black bloc running amok as tear gas dispersed the crowds. Ricardo Rosselló, the rightwing Governor of Puerto Rico, held a press conference to denounce the May Day action, lumping the adventurists in with the peaceful protestors.

That set the agenda for Banco Popular to punish the movement as a whole. It filed a lawsuit claiming damages against 42 plaintiffs, including community organizations and labor unions. Were the masked rock-throwing adventurists agent provocateurs working for the cops? While some probably were, the more likely explanation is a deep-seated belief by politically raw youth that breaking windows and fighting the cops is revolutionary.

Taking advantage of a movement put on the defensive, Rosselló signed legislation that will increase criminal penalties against demonstrators who wear masks. He also made it a crime to obstruct construction sites (up to three years in prison), a measure designed to curtail union protests, as well as approving fines of up to $30,000 for interfering with tourist activities. Interference would likely include the closure of an access road to the airport that occurred on May Day, as well as obstructing access to or functions in health or government offices or learning institutions.

Nice work, adventurists.

As bad as the outcome was in Puerto Rico, it looked like the damage could be even much greater in the mother country for people caught up in the chaos that took place on Inauguration Day, once again sparked by black bloc adventurism.

On the morning of January 20th, when Donald Trump was set to be inaugurated, a large group of protesters dressed in black and faces covered ran wild through Washington, smashing windows just like their pals in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once again, the cops threw out a very broad net that included more than two hundred people being arrested, most of whom apparently had nothing to do with property destruction. They were charged with felony rioting, facing 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Reporters Alexi Wood and Aaron Cantu, who were also swept up in the mass arrests, face even harsher punishments. Wood was charged with five felony property destruction charges and three felony rioting charges. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to 70 years in prison as would Cantu who was faced with similar charges.

Nice work, adventurists.

Turning now to Charlottesville, it is obvious to me that if the protests had been disciplined and under the control of marshals such as was the norm during the Vietnam antiwar movement, there would have been much less of a chance that James Fields would have been able to drive his Dodge Challenger into a crowd, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others.

The antifa contingent came to the city with the intent of turning it into a battle between the fascists and their own street fighters in the same way that it “intervened” at the Berkeley protest against Milo Yiannopoulos. Fortunately, nobody was killed or injured at Berkeley but the protest lacked political clarity.

The same cannot be said about his appearance at the University of Washington in Seattle on Inauguration Day. During a melee between the black bloc and cops outside the hall where Yiannopolous was speaking, IWW member Josh Dukes was shot by Elizabeth Hokoana, a Trump supporter. Her husband Marc was arrested with her as an accomplice. Dukes has lost his gall bladder, half his colon and is left with a severely damaged liver.

If you want to keep tabs of the adventurists who are unaccountable to anybody outside of their ranks, you need to consult the “It’s Going Down” website. There you can read an assessment of the Charlottesville events by an anonymous author, which is typical of the lack of accountability that exists in this milieu. Titled “Charlottesville and the Rise of Fascism in the USA: What We Need to Do”, it is certainly not what one would call an exercise in false modesty.

They credit their window-breaking adventures with inspiring judges to block Muslim bans and motivating government officials to leak information to the press. Gosh, where would we be without them? The boys refer dismissively to nonviolent protestors: “Likewise, it won’t help to gather in churches, as some did in Charlottesville last night, congratulating ourselves on how nonviolent we are while fascists patrol the streets. Last night, when the church locked its doors, many were trapped outside, dramatically outnumbered. This kind of behavior is also complicity.” What ingrates. Cornel West credits them (rather hyperbolically) as saving his life while they charge him as being complicit with white supremacy. It is no wonder that the antifa cult has no concept of broad unity that is so urgently needed today. If you are not ready to get your teeth knocked out by a KKK member in a Rugby-like confrontation, then get lost.

The author does manage to call for unity but the words ring as hollow as Trump’s follow-up statement on Charlottesville: “As in our efforts against the Trump administration, we can’t take on fascism alone. We have to make sure that we are part of a much broader movement, yet that our efforts are not diluted or reduced to some lowest common denominator.” And what does he expect of us? “We need people to put up posters; we need people to hand out handbills”. Is this idiot for real? The antifa wants us to do grunt work while we have absolutely no voice in their decision-making? On their worst day, the worst Leninist sect did not have such arrogance.

There is an implicit ideological assumption in the antifa movement that is worth bringing to the surface and critiquing. In a way, they share the Communist Party’s long-standing obsession with “fascism” that surfaces in every election campaign. They called on people to vote for Hubert Humphrey against Nixon in order to “stop fascism” just as antifa calls on people to get their bones broke or worse taking on fascists who look forward to such confrontation since it gets covered in the bourgeois press that otherwise would have little interest in people like Richard Spencer. Reporting about violence increases newspaper sales and TV ratings.

The enemy is not fascism as much as it is capitalism that exploits the working class according to democratic and civilized norms that would never be associated with the swastika or other fascist regalia. How do I know? Just read the NY Times op-ed page that screams bloody murder about Trump but gave Obama and Hillary Clinton a free pass. It was, after all, Democratic Party indifference to the suffering of the majority of Americans that led to the current crisis.

In a way, the American antifa movement suffers the same kind of political myopia as the original movement in postwar Germany, where Socialists and Communists tried to root out the residual Nazism left behind in the German state. This history is detailed in a Jacobin article titled “The Lost History of Antifa” written by contributing editor Loren Balhorn who is a member of Die Linke.

Antifa groups totaled in the thousands, made up of older industrial workers who managed to elude the Gestapo. They were primarily focused on identifying and bringing to justice Nazis in the same way that Jewish Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal did.

They also fought for social change with Stuttgart being a center of working class resistance to postwar austerity. In 1948 there was anger over drastic price rises that triggered a general strike that in which 79 percent of the workforce took part and that spread beyond Stuttgart.

Ultimately, the antifa movement was unable to transform a country that was undergoing massive economic changes orchestrated by the victorious USA. Balhorn cites Albercht Lein throughout his article. Lein was the author of “Antifaschistische Aktion”, a 1978 book that offers an explanation of why the original movement faded from the scene.

Essentially, the movement was focused almost exclusively on tracking down Nazis and failed to develop a strategy for changing German society. In a way, the CP and SP returned to the status quo ante in the new Germany with both parties following its own narrow interests, particularly in the trade unions. The SP was keen on sustaining the alliance with the USA, which promised a return to capitalist normalcy and even prosperity while the CP saw itself—as always—serving the interests of the Soviet Union.

It even reverted back to its sectarian pre-Popular Front period as Balhorn points out:

Following a brief period of participation in postwar provisional governments, however, the Allies sidelined the KPD, and the party soon returned to its ultra-leftist line. It sealed its political irrelevance in 1951 with the passage of “Thesis 37,” a position paper on labor strategy riddled with anti–Social Democratic and anti-trade-union slurs. The motion, passed at the party conference, obligated all KPD members to obey party decisions above and against trade union directives if necessary. This move obliterated Communist support in the factories veritably overnight and relegated the party to society’s fringes. It failed to re-enter parliament in the 1953 elections and was banned by the West German government outright in 1956.

The same kind of divisions between the SP and CP in Germany in the 1920s were responsible for Hitler coming to power, not an unwillingness to engage in punch-ups as I have heard on Facebook. If the SP and the CP had combined forces, they would have been able to elect someone other than Paul von Hindenburg, the rightist who turned over the power to Hitler. And given the right strategy, even making a socialist revolution. They did have the support of the working class unlike the tiny sects of today.

As a small, self-appointed savior of the America people, the antifa milieu has neither the massive support that the German antifa movement had nor little grasp of the tasks that face us. Right now it is the cops, not Richard Spencer, that is killing Black people with impunity. All across the country, fracking and other forms of environmental despoliation will be on the rise under Donald Trump. This requires a powerful mass movement to confront, not small-scale skirmishes. We are dealing with frightening confrontations over North Korea that cry out for a new anti-nuclear movement, not stupid, childish window-breaking.

I doubt that anybody involved with window-breaking, fist-fighting idiocy is capable of rising to the occasion but I urge people who have been seduced by their fake militancy in the same way that they got a kick out of the viral Richard Spencer getting punched video to wise up. We are in for some stormy battles and intelligence is needed much more than empty bravado.

Islamophobia: The New Western Racism

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 12:41 am

The Pluto Press Blog - Independent, radical publishing

Traverso Jewish modIn this essay, written exclusively for the Pluto blog, author of the recently published End of Jewish Modernity and prolific historian of the twentieth-century, Enzo Traverso examines the parallels between two strains of modern xenophobia: anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Looking at politics, the media and cultural output, Traverso reveals significant similarities between today’s Islamophobia and the older anti-Semitism.

‘A new wave of Islamophobia is spreading in the West. President Donald Trump vowed during the election to expel all Muslims from the United States and  across the European Union, conservative currents claim laws against Islam. Islam is perceived as a barbarism and a threat to Western, “Jewish-Christian” civilization, a tendency gaining strength in France following a succession of terrorist attacks  In this culture of extreme xenophobia and prejudice, the notion that Muslim citizens be compelled to wear a yellow star and crescent on their clothes, like Jews during the Second World War, no…

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